And then, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources
officer came and took them away from us. And he told us that we were
breaking the law.
The story begins in early May. My friend Laura and
I were sitting outside her apartment, which looks out on a golf course
in Farmington Hills. One of the course rangers came by and showed
us that there was an abandoned baby goose just a few yards away.
It was a fuzzy little yellow thing with oversized webbed feet. He
reminded us of a walking tennis ball with a little black bill.
Of course we immediately took the little guy around
to every mating pair of adult geese we could find. We were trying
to find his parents, or at least a pair of adults who would take
him in. But the adults hissed and drew back their broods, and our
hatchling began following us when we backed away.
We were just going to have to take him under our own
featherless wings. We didn’t know quite how we were going to do it,
but we had to protect this little one.
There are a number of Canada Geese living around this
golf course. And at this place, they are often treated with wide-open
hostility. They’re chased by people driving golf carts and harassed
with firecrackers. There is talk of people smashing their eggs and
of other horrors. We can only imagine what left this one without
Laura immediately went on the internet to learn what
our lost boy would need, and we started improvising extra food and
shelter for this baby. But it was easy to learn what to do just by
looking around us. All we had to do was let him live like a new goose.
This consists largely of walking around, grazing in the grass and
The biggest effort involved the fact that he’d “imprinted” on
us. It’s amazing how many people know what this term means; it’s
the psychological instinct that leads creatures like this to follow
whomever is perceived to be their parents. So our little guy needed
to know where we were at all times. If not, he’d start peeping in
an alarmed way (and, of course, we’d run to him like we would to
a crying baby).
We had fallen in love with our little goose, and we
gave him all we had.
The second goose came to us about a week-and-a-half
later. Some kids we know had found her wandering in the parking lot
at the complex. Now we had two babies; but more importantly, as it
turned out, they had each other. You’ve never seen such brotherly-sisterly
love as what developed between these two adorable orphans. We were
thrilled for them. And even though the effort in watching out for
them could be a strain, we felt we were doing good. It was a wonderful
feeling. It was a beautiful thing.
And just for the record, we knew very well we’d have
to part with our new charges once they were grown. We decided we’d
face that when the time came. But on June 7, as we were sitting out
watching them, an employee of the property brought DNR officer Green
up in a golf cart.
We were illegally “rehabilitating” the geese, according
to this fellow. Suddenly, we were wrong. We were criminals. Laura
was ticketed and now faces a court date. And this blank-faced official,
who was so efficiently delivered right to the door, took the kids.
Laura was crushed; she almost literally cried her eyes
out. Our spirits were badly wounded. And a horrible, cynical phrase
I’d once heard now keeps echoing through my head: “no good deed ever
So now the geese have been taken away to some “shelter” to
be “rehabilitated” in the state’s warm, loving way. I can’t help
thinking that they’ll be submitted to some sort of deprogramming
process so that they’ll never again go near any human who can’t show
them a badge or a permit – or perhaps a gun.
Our original little guy didn’t ask to see our permit.
He was newly hatched and didn’t know any better than us ignorant
humans that we were required to have one. But the officials we don’t
know, in the many and various levels of government we’ve got, have
created whole libraries full of laws and regulations most of us have
never heard of.
And, as it turns out, we the people had better not
put our grubby, unlicensed hands on any of the government’s geese.
Sharon Pawlak is the National Coordinator of the Coalition
to Prevent the Destruction of Canada Geese, www.canadageese.org
[Editor’s note: No doubt, they have been taken to
a happy hunting ground – a wildlife management area for increasing “game” species – so